College football's National Signing Day has become one of the most talked about events in college sports. It's sort of a cross between election night and the NFL Draft. Signing Day represents the first time high school players are eligible to sign Letters of Intent to colleges. It has become a booming business. ESPNU, a channel that specializes in college sports, committed 10 hours of live coverage to where the most highly coveted players will play their college football.
National Signing Day draws the most passionate football fans who expect the most complete information possible, at the same time attracting more casual fans who don't know very much about the event but are interested seeing how their favorite school fared in recruiting. Meeting the expectations and demands of both types of fans isn't easy. The network tried on Wednesday to give the hard core fans what they want, but also provided some graphics that those tuning in for the first time could relate to. ESPNU attempted to accomplish this by placing the rankings of the players next to their names, providing conference rankings, and by interviewing coaches to give insight into recruiting class in a broader sense.
ESPNU had more resources than its competitors in trying to achieve all those things, but balancing it all out is quite a challenge. The network tried to give a varied approach by placing reporters at thirteen different schools all across the country, and providing live coverage of eleven player announcements. It was able to show Florida State's enthusiastic reaction to defensive tackle Eddie Goldman's commitment – it was the highlight of the network's coverage – while also keeping tabs on all the drama that comes with the day. Many college football scouts regard Goldman as the top defensive tackle in the country. He hails from the District, and is a senior at Friendship Collegiate Academy. "I'm going to be surrounded by a lot of talent. I'm just going to do my best to contribute... Go Noles!" said Goldman during the live broadcast. "The last few days we started feeling better. He was a very unique recruit. He really listened, he really paid attention, a lot of eye contact during the visits, we didn't ever promise to play, we promise an opportunity," replied Florida State Head Coach Jimbo Fisher later in the day on ESPNU.
It's that kind of access that separates ESPNU from all of the other outlets that cover National Signing Day. The ability to have well-respected coaches like Jimbo Fisher, and USC's Lane Kiffin to provide analysis on their recruiting class is one of the main differentiating factors. Also, it didn't hurt that it could leverage the influence of SportsCenter and espn.com to generate interest in the coverage. SportsCenter provided several updates of some of the big news, while the feature story on espn.com for the majority of the day was about National Signing Day.
One thing's for sure, the National Signing Day telecast is here to stay. Ten hours of live coverage may seem a bit excessive, bit the fans asked for it. As long the fans demand it, ESPNU will supply it.